Teachings From My Faith
By Ernestine Jackson, Council Member
I am a practicing Nichiren Buddhist and have been for almost 40 years. I was not raised Buddhist but it is a conversion I am comfortable with and believe worthy of understanding by all people.
Like many faith communities, my faith tradition is discussing and offering guidance on all the various issues confronting us as citizens of the United States of America. Our recently weekly publication, the World Tribune, carried an article worth of sharing and discussion. It is entitled, “The Conversation We Need to Transform Our County- The power of genuine dialogue.”
The article begins with a quote from Johann Wolfgang von Goethe which reads:
“It is in conflict with natures opposed to his own that a man must collect his strength to fight his way through; and thus all our different sides are brought out and developed, so that we soon feel ourselves a match for every foe. …you must at all events plunge into the great world, whether you like it or not…”
This quote is from Conversations of Goethe with Johann Peter Eckermann. It is also worth noting that van Goethe was born into a Lutheran family but consider a ‘free-thinker’ and self-identified as a non-Christian.
Nichiren Buddhist practice primarily by chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo and reciting portions of the 2nd and 16th chapters of the Lotus Sutra. We strive to deepen our understanding of Buddhism by studying Buddhist principles and writings. This in turn enables us to strengthen our faith. We practice Nichiren Buddhism for the happiness of ourselves and others. Our lay Buddhist organization is called the SGI, which stands for Soka Gakkai International. Our collective goal is to realize world peace through each person becoming happy. As our SGI International President reminds us often, “A great human revolution in just a single individual will help achieve a change in the destiny of a nation and further, will enable a change in the destiny of all humankind.”
Returning to the article, there are four key points:
Dialogue makes us stronger. There may well be times when one finds it somewhat challenging to work together with other members, who may have different personalities or backgrounds…. There is also a strong general tendency these days for people to try to avoid direct interaction with others. But that trend deprives us of the opportunity to make the most of our differing personalities, to praise and support one another, and to cultivate our capacities for tolerance and understanding. As a result, we may end up being unable to appreciate the pain and suffering of others, control our own anger or patch up even small differences and misunderstandings.” – Sensei As a member of the Interfaith Association of Central Ohio, I have appreciated the opportunity to understand other faith traditions which puts me in contact with people very different from me. The exposure to various faith traditions and customs helps me appreciate my own faith more deeply while cultivating an appreciation and understanding of other faiths.
True societal change requires a transformation in the depths of our lives. You must quickly reform the tenets that you hold in your heart and embrace the one true vehicle, the single good doctrine (of the Lotus Sutra). If you do so, then the threefold world will become the Buddha land, and how could a Buddha land ever decline? – Nichiren Each of us must be deeply convinced that a transformation in the awareness of a single person can eventually change the whole world. Efforts to enable a reformation in the life of one person will ultimately move the hearts of many people, reforming society and changing the history of humankind. What we refer to as worldwide kosen-rufu (world peace), therefore, is crystallized within the unrelenting efforts of individuals challenging themselves to open the hearts of others, illuminating them with the wisdom of Buddhism. The power of a great human revolution within the life of a single human being will definitely break the chains of the hatred and violence that bind us – now is the time to spread this message to the world. – Sensei
Dialogue requires courage, patience and sustained engagement. Genuine dialogue is a ceaseless and profound spiritual exertion that seeks to effect a fundamental human transformation in both ourselves and others. Dialogue challenges us to confront and transform the destructive impulses inherent in human life.
Kosen-rufu (world peace) requires that we not walk away from others because the conversation is difficult. At the root of conflicts in the world today lie mistrust and hatred. In order to transcend these the genuine power of dialogue is indispensable. To this end, while communicating our beliefs and convictions clearly to others, we must exert ourselves fully to respect the dignity of people’s lives and endeavor to understand them. Respecting our differences and learning from one another, we must tenaciously persist in talking with others, engaging them repeatedly in discussion. We must recognize that the fundamental path to solving these problems exists only in the process of substantial efforts at dialogue.”
I hope this write up – all of it – gives you something to think about, as it has me.